I believe in the power of the love provided by my children. I believe in that love’s profound beauty and not a day goes by when I am not struck by its brilliant impact on me.
Sometimes the love takes form in a somewhat predictable expression – a heart felt thank you for making a special food or fixing a broken necklace. Other times it’s more spontaneous, like when my son reaches for my hand as we take a walk outside, or when my daughter showers me with a big hug or kiss for no reason. And then there’s the love that oozes out in more subtle ways, but is every inch as powerful. It’s there when my seven year old son makes a point of thanking his grandparents for visiting and tells them what a nice time he’s had (despite that he’s counting the seconds until their departure) because he knows how his comments will make them feel good and that it will indirectly reflect well on me. It’s also there when my nine year old, who, deep in thought, in the midst of writing a poem, offers to stop and help me clean up a mess that I’ve made because she can see the tired look on my face.
Perhaps the reason that I am so struck by my children’s love is because I don’t come from an environment of unconditional love. I grew up in a family where a cloud of ugliness loomed over me, filled with spoken and unspoken criticisms and laden with competitiveness. In this world, love was more of a commodity – something that could be obtained but only under the right condition and at a price. Buy the right present, commend someone on his or her achievements and then the love would come and often at the cost of another. I’ll never forget the time when I was 12 and I was left to stay at home with my older brother as my parents went out to dinner. Before going to bed I left a note on my parents pillow wishing them sweet dreams. The next morning I learned that my brother had destroyed what I had written and replaced it with his own “loving” note soon after I had gone to sleep. Unaware of what had transpired, my mother couldn’t get over how thoughtful he had been. When I contrast these circumstances to my current life, it helps me recognize how fortunate I am.
The unsolicited, non-competitive gestures of love from my children not only warm my heart, but they shield me from the pain that would otherwise be inflicted on me by all of the bad memories that linger, along with the fresh acts of cruelty generated by my relatives that even today, threaten what would be an otherwise extremely happy existence. And sometimes the threats are great. But, just when life seems like it can’t get any worse, the love that my children offer reminds me that there is reason to live. It is in this generous, uncompromising and practically indescribable love that I believe.